The Mother and Child Separation

Normally, I don’t like to mix posting and politics, but the latest immigration tactics (nay, antics) of our Demander-in-Chief have taken this beyond a political issue. It’s a human rights issue.

“Families are the foundational element of our society and they must be able to stay together. While protecting our borders is important, we can and must do better as a government, and as a society, to find other ways to ensure that safety. Separating babies from their mothers is not the answer and is immoral.”

— Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, in a statement.

I’m equal parts angered and saddened. I have “zero tolerance” for this b.s.

As per usual, the fantastic Hitting The Trifecta blog has found the perfect way to express (in a much more eloquent way than I could) exactly what I’m feeling. Author Rickey Dobbs has a way of breaking down complex issues in an engaging, typically satirical way. This most recent blog post absolutely nails it on separating kids from their parents. Please read the entire thing. But if you can’t, this wrap up should bring it home nicely:

If WE are going to do this (yes, “we” are doing this, my co-owners of this representative democratic republic), we’ll need to gather the niños into places where we can keep track of thousands of them all at once. To that end, we’ll be concentrating all of them into some outpost, or maybe a camp.

Gosh, no, it’s not a concentration camp or anything like that! How offensive! *clutches pearls, then realizes I accidentally wore my pearls to work.

But understand: those kids just hoofed it across the harsh Mexican terrain, risking their very lives seeking freedom from unimaginable violence. So, it’s safe to say they’re a scrappy bunch! Because of that reality, we’ll have uniformed men with guns to make sure the kids don’t scale the ten-foot fences that surround their cages.

Word will – and already has – spread to the next incoming “waves” of immigrants that there’s a really shitty patch of territory between the Rio Grande and the Canadian border. If you’re a “got-damn furrner” and you get caught in that 1800-mile expanse, abandon all hope all ye who enter. Oh, and abandon your dreams…especially those “American” ones.

But oddly enough, fully knowing the inhospitable environs that await, they keep coming. They risk losing their children for a tiny chance at giving the kids a better life than is possible at home.

You have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.” And no one tries to cross the border, via asylum or otherwise, knowing they’ll likely lose their children, unless the alternative is uniformly worse.

 Of course, our government doesn’t have to take your kids if they catch you. We don’t have to make your arduous, desperate life worse than it already is. We do it because we’re America in 2018. There’s a rabid, deplorable electoral base that needs red meat, and you’re wearing red meat underoos. We’re a nation of uneducated playground bullies who elect even bigger uneducated playground bullies, and we always punch down.

And sorry, José. You are both geographically and socioeconomically down.

All of this is to make it clear as day, brought to you by white resentment, economic insecurity, and rich guys who profit from both:

The America of which you’re dreaming is just lighting and camera tricks. It’s not available for you, scapegoats. It’s barely available for us. We are simply making the age-old American reality abundantly clear: you and your family are, perpetually, one generation too late.

 Lo siento, amigos.

So true, so sadly true. The link above in the Hitting the Trifecta blog post is to a wonderful poem that you simply must read. Now! Here are the final lines:

i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

 

The weekend’s too short

I had a fun-filled, music-filled weekend (the latter often begets the former). Friday night, I went to see Japanese Breakfast at the Taft Theater Ballroom, which is actually the basement below the Taft Theater in downtown Cincinnati. It has that 80s basement rec room vibe to it (the only thing that’s missing is the bumper pool table) but I’ve seen some great shows there, including the one Friday night. Japanese Breakfast is fronted by Michelle Zauner, a Korean-American singer/songwriter/performer from Philly who kicks butt with her band live.

She’s got a great voice, and her lyrical skills are impressive. Japanese Breakfast has two albums out, and both are fantastic slices of dream pop. The first one, Psychopompwas written while her mom was battling cancer, and recorded after her mom passed away. The new one is called Soft Sounds from Another Planet. Here’s one of my favorites from it.

On Saturday, I saw a cover band at a local bar in Mt. Adams. But not just any cover band. Cereal Killers cover songs from my era… not the “hits” either, but the indie/college rock/pub rock/new wave gems from the late 70s and early 80s. The Clash. X. Smithereens. R.E.M. INXS. With some Tom Petty thrown in for good measure.

The lead guitarist is my friend and neighbor, and my wife is good friends with the lead singer’s wife. They were playing outside and it was a gazillion degrees, but I still hit the dance floor. Probably the first time I’ve danced in more than a decade (note: I’m still horrible but now am 29% more arthritic!). I danced mainly because the lead singer’s wife guilted me into it (it was her birthday – how could I refuse?) but also, how many more chances will I get in my lifetime to dance to a Billy Bragg song? (Answer: two at best, with a margin of error of plus or minus two.)

Who needs Father’s Day gifts? All I need is a bunch of live music and a couple days off from work. Actually, I could use a couple more days off from work… I’m still aching.

 

The feedback loop de loop

After my last blog post about poetry, I got a nice note (OK, it was a text, same difference in 2018) from my friend Jacqui. (She’s one of the “unholy trinity”… i.e. the first three people that I trusted enough to send a link to my blog, back when I was young not as old and scared of judgment and worried about being “not good enough.” Now I know that I’m not good enough and don’t care!)

Here’s Jacqui’s three-part text:

Thanks for the kind words and profound thoughts, Jacqui. That’s a great quote you shared. Whether you like our current president or can’t stand him (clearly there’s no middle ground), by any objective measure, the language he uses is the harshest, ugliest stuff we’ve ever seen out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, by a country mile. And that should scare all of us. We can respond in kind, or we can respond by being kinder to our fellow human beings in our words and our actions. The latter path will be more effective in effecting a change.

Moving right along…

A couple of months ago, I posted about Cincinnati artist Mark DeJong and his “Swing House” art project. Now that project (and Cincinnati in general) are getting some national love – check out this New York Times article. Here’s an excerpt:

And here’s the author’s video from her Instagram post:

It’s nice to see Mark getting national recognition for his amazing work. And if you’re keeping score at home, dubbatrubba.com gave you the scoop two months sooner than the New York Times. That’s kind of a big deal…

 

 

 

 

Roses are red, violets are blue…

… I went to a poetry reading, and you should too!

(Don’t worry, the poets I saw were much better than that.)

Yes, I went to a poetry reading last night (along with about 50 other folks!), and heard words from eight talented folks from the Cincinnati area. Just words, nothing more. It was nothing less than transcendent.

The poets included:

  • Bucky Ignatius, a “semi-reformed hippie” who did mostly short poems (he has a book called Fifty Under Fifty featuring poems that are 50 words or fewer) that were typically humorous, but also profound.
  • Pauletta Hansel, former Poet Laureate for Cincinnati, sharing deeply moving poems about her mother’s battle with dementia.
  • Michael Henson, a poet and fiction writer (and Poet Laureate for Mt. Washington, my neighborhood), bringing tales of Appalachia (and numbers) to life.
  • Desirae Hosley from WordPlay Cincy, whose spoken word piece about body image was a show-stopper.
  • Manuel Iris, a school teacher and the current Cincinnati Poet Laureate, sharing deeply moving words about living between two worlds (Mexico and the U.S.) and struggling to define “home.”

The program was called Rhyme & Wine. It was hosted by Water Tower Fine Wines, the local wine shop in my neighborhood.

The Mount Washington Community Council has funded this event for the past four years. Some will consider that a waste of neighborhood funds, frittering away dollars on something so ephemeral. But we need more poetry and less punditry in our lives.

Analog moments in the Digital Age? Very much so! Anachronistic? No way! Words matter. Now more than ever.

Roses are red
Violets are blue.
This poem doesn’t rhyme
Who cares, it’s free verse!

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

Fred Rogers is having a moment, nearly two decades after his show signed off.

Tom Hanks is set to play him in a movie. A documentary about him called Won’t You Be My Neighbor opened in select cities yesterday. Maxwell King has written a book that is due out soon called The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. This article from The Atlantic website pulls from that book, and demonstrates the care that Fred took in scrutinizing every word that he and his fellow cast members ever spoke on the show, to make sure it was right on target for his target audience of preschoolers.

The writers even coined the term “Freddish” to describe the language. Here’s a great example from the article about how a simple line could morph:

Per the pamphlet, there were nine steps for translating into Freddish:

  1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. ​​​​​​
  2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.
  3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in, “Ask your parents where it is safe to play.”
  4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.
  5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.
  6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.
  7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.
  8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.
  9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing.

Tons of folks have parodied Fred Rogers, most famously Christopher Guest (with Bill Murray as the bass player) and Eddie Murphy (see below for videos). But the original Fred was a wonderful, caring teacher to generations of kids… and adults.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Music matters

This is old news (not “fake news”) but well worth covering here. Back in April, KEXP-FM in Seattle received a bequest from an anonymous donor… to the tune of $10 million.

I couldn’t think of a more deserving station. KEXP is, per their website, “a listener-powered, non-profit arts organization.” Their slogan is “Where the music matters” and they are true to their words. They play great music (emerging artists, indie bands… you know, all that “weird” music that I love) and have knowledgeable, personable DJs. Actual human beings selecting songs… what a novel concept in a world of robot radio! They host a ton of live in-studio performances too – you can watch the videos on their website or their YouTube channel.

The anonymous donor, known only as “Suzanne,” didn’t even live in the Seattle area, but she had family there. When she mentioned to her uncle that her favorite local radio station had gone off the air, he turned her on to KEXP (you can listen online) and she became an avid listener and donor.

“When I told my uncle that my favorite radio station had just gone off the air, he turned me on to KEXP,” she said. “Music is one of the best ways to unite people globally, and I love an organization which spreads that goodness.”  (Source: New York Times article)

She passed away in 2016, at a relatively young age, and KEXP was informed of the gift in early 2017.

Not many folks have $10 million to leave to a radio station. (I double-checked my couch cushions… no such luck.) But we can all support music. This quote from KEXP Executive Director Tom Mara really resonated with me:

“I think this is a good time for anybody to reflect on the role that music has in their lives, in that music makes lives better, and each of us, including myself, we need to support artists to a greater extent. We need to see their shows, we need to buy their music and we need to discover artists that need to be heard,” Mara said. “Music often plays a background role in our lives, and it does very well there…Let’s take this moment as a way to bring music into the forefront of our lives, too.”  (source: Seattle PI article.)

 

 

Special delivery

My 18-year-old son is retired.

He just gave up his paper route, after six long years. It was a weekly neighborhood paper, covering community council meetings and the local high school sports teams, mainly. The job wasn’t a very lucrative gig, when you consider the time spent bagging the papers, delivering, and then collecting payments once a month. But it provided him with some folding money once his Tooth Fairy days were over.

Nice panel van, Mister!

Other than our summer vacations, he delivered every Wednesday for six years. If “80% of success is just showing up” then his route was great career training.

As you might guess, his subscriber base (average age: 72) was dwindling. Sometimes quite literally dying off. In the internet era, no one reads the paper anymore. Heck, half the population doesn’t even know what a newspaper is.

They don’t even get the gossip rags anymore.

Don’t worry that our son will get lazy. He’s still working. In fact, he’s still in the delivery business. But instead of papers, which very few people care for anymore, he’s delivering something everyone likes to consume:

 

 

The fickle finger of fame (a.k.a. A Tale of Two Artists)

On Thursday, I went to see a 25-year-old singer/songwriter in concert. On Saturday, my wife and my daughter went to see a 28-year-old singer/songwriter in concert.

The person I went to see has released four albums. His first releases featured a blend of country, blues and gospel, but his new album skews more toward pop while retaining those other influences. The person my wife and daughter went to see has released six albums. Her early releases were mainstream country, but her most recent releases are decidedly pop.

The guy I went to see played at the Southgate House Revival in Newport, Kentucky to an enthusiastic audience of about 400. The woman my wife and daughter went to see played in a field in Chicago… to an adoring audience of 61,500.

There isn’t much difference in talent between Parker Millsap and Taylor Swift.

One just has a stronger reputation.

You can keep your arena shows… I’m happier with other arrangements.

Because sometimes (but not always!) selling out stadiums requires a different form of selling out. And for the price of a single nosebleed seat to see T-Swizzle, I can get up close and personal at a dozen smaller shows.

It’s such a fine line between relative obscurity and worldwide fame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Wear Orange weekend

There’s an old joke about folks in Tennessee wearing orange over the weekend because it’s a triple threat: they can wear it for hunting on Friday, to the Vols football game on Saturday, and for their prison work-release duties on Sunday.

But I’m not in Tennessee, I’m not a hunter, I’m not a Vols fan (Go Hogs!) and I’m not subject to court-ordered work (yet!). However, I’m still wearing orange today. Here’s why:

Learn more here: https://wearorange.org/